On the heels of World Aids Day on December 1, black and brown gay men are increasingly becoming the face of the disease. While this isn’t new information and statistics were sadly similar last year, the rate of infections among minoritiescontinues to grow. The New York Times reports that black and Hispanic gay men who have sex with men account for 25 percent of new infection cases nationally and 45 percent in New York City alone, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and NYC’s health department.
Giselle, a homeless 23-year-old transgender woman with cafe-au-lait skin, could be called the new face of the epidemic.
“I tested positive about a year ago,” said Giselle, who was born male but now has a girlish hair spout, wears a T-shirt tight across a feminine chest and identifies herself as a woman. “I don’t know how, exactly. I was homeless. I was escorting. I’ve been raped.”
“Yes, I use condoms,” she added. “But I’m not going to lie. I slip sometimes. Trust me — everyone here who says, ‘I always use condoms’? They don’t always.”
Besides transgender people like Giselle, the affected group includes men who are openly gay, secretly gay or bisexual, and those who consider themselves heterosexual but have had sex with men, willingly or unwillingly, in shelters or prison or for money.
So why is it like the 1980s all over again but in gay communities of color? Those in HIV/AIDS advocacy and education say it’s tough to reach this niche LGBTQ community because they are often rejected by their families, and thereby transient. This lack of steady income makes young men vulnerable, and it's harder to come by government funding for helpful information campaigns (like "Testing Makes Us Stronger," above). Also, young black and brown men often enter relationships with older men of color who might be HIV positive themselves and may not be taking their medication. It’s all disastrous cocktail.
If this post resonates with you or someone you know, please check out the Center for Disease Control's statistics, get tested and find a local LGBTQ advocacy and education group, like Oakland, Ca's AIDS Project East Bay that fits your lifestyle.